Boticelli’s incomparable masterpiece, The Birth of Venus can be found in the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence and is rightly priceless but if FLORENCE (FIORENTINA) win the Europa League I know where the Lira is going – in my back pocket! The Europa League has now reached the quarter-finals and whilst my original tentative bet on Besiktas has bitten the dust, it is now time to get involved again with Fiorentina available at 6/1. Their form in recent weeks has improved markedly with their squad now free from injury, and victories domestically and in Europe over some quality sides has led to an upturn in fortunes. When you look at the other seven surviving teams it is hard to differentiate between them, and should they get through their tough quarter-final (against Napoli) they deserve to be favourites. Take the 6/1 now before the next round in mid-April.
Away from Europe’s secondary competition, the Champions League has also reached the last eight and my faith in my original fancy of BAYERN MUNICH, which was available at 9/2 has not diminished. Now a top price of bottle the blue (2/1) I would advise pressing my selection if you’ve not already backed them. The recent quarter-final draw was especially kind (Porto) and the two other marquee sides of Real Madrid and Barcelona have tough ties and therefore not sure to qualify against Atletico Madrid and PSG. So again my advice is take the 2/1 now as I can see their price contracting by half. All other domestic football matters have now effectively been settled.
I confess I don’t know if it’s going to rain on April 11 but if it does, back GOONYELLA to win the National. This confirmed mudlark recently pounded into submission a quality field in the Midlands Grand National and if the word soft came up in any going description then the 40/1 currently available needs to be taken. So if you are an amateur weatherman or you have special knowledge of the likely precipitation in downtown Liverpool, then back or don’t back on your information. Last month I tipped up the chances of ROCKY CREEK which remains my main fancy and can still be backed at around 12/1.
Whilst we are in the last embers of the jump racing season, the flat has just begun with the Lincoln at Doncaster. Highlight of the first couple of months is the Guineas and my fancy for the fillies classic (the 1,000 Guineas) is Andre Fabre’s brilliant HIGH CELEBRITY. It was noticeable that the master French trainer brought her over to get experience of Newmarket in a largely glittering two-year-old campaign last year (something he doesn’t normally do) and I think we should take that inference and back her at 8/1 to win the first fillies classic. The day before is the colts equivalent, the 2,000 Guineas. Recent betting patterns have alluded to Ballydoyle’s number one hope in the shape of Gleneagles and when you consider that various Ballydoyle runners occupy the first four or five in the betting, it should be noted. Experience has taught me that when the money is down from the right sources it is not fanciful and therefore I suggest taking the 7/2 (best price 4/1) now at time of writing, rather than procrastinating for a fortnight. My other fancy is BELARDO who impressed me no end in his two-year-old campaign and who is currently available at 14/1.
Finally, the azaleas are in bloom so it must be the first golf major of the year…the Masters. And it looks like no Tiger Woods and with a lot of the old guard in poor form. However, what must be remembered is that this tournament above all others invariably goes to course form (that’s why Freddie and Gentle Ben do so well) and also to a big hitter and my three against the field this year are DUSTIN JOHNSON (16/1), HENRIK STENSON (20/1) and JIMMY WALKER (40/1).
Until next time…good punting.